A northern England woman has turned a medical condition that causes her to grow excessive facial hair into a positive fundraising effort during "Movember," with the aim of creating awareness and support for prostate cancer.
Siobhain Fletcher, 36, of Leek, Staffordshire, was diagnosed as a teenager with polycystic ovary syndrome, a hormone imbalance which causes her to grow excessive facial hair. She told ABCNews.com she wasn't diagnosed until she was 23, but in hindsight, the symptoms were there for years.
"When I started getting my periods, they never became regular - I thought that was a bonus!" she said. "I started getting a few hairs, around 15 or 16. Every woman gets facial hair. I thought that was just part of puberty. I cut with scissors, or shaved them off."
Fletcher, who works as a manager of equestrian supplies in the town south of Manchester, had a reflexology session in her 20s that identified the syndrome. As her hair grew thicker, she tried a variety of options to rid herself of her facial hair.
"I tried waxing at first, and the last waxing session took my skin off, rather than the hair. It was already painful, and it took a while for the skin to heal," she said. "For my granddad's funeral, I used a cream to take it off, but it gave me a chemical burn."
Fletcher said that she had success with electrolysis, but it could only take 10-15 hairs off in a session, and laser treatments are cost prohibitive.
It was earlier this month when her friend Ashley told her of that he was participating in "Movember," the month-long facial hair growing event men participate in to raise awareness of prostate and other male cancer, that Fletcher decided to turn the syndrome she's had her entire adult life into something positive.
"I pointed out that he had a bit of face fuzz, and asked about it. He told me about 'Movember,' and in a spur of the moment decision, I decided to grow mine," she said.
Since setting up her profile on Movermber's UK website, Fletcher has already raised £1,040. She told ABCNews.com that £300 has been raised on her page in the last 24 hours, since her story gained attention. She says she's happy to be getting international recognition.
"It helps people get checked for prostate and testicular cancer, and hopefully people will, instead of going to a funeral, be going to a remission party," she said.
Fletcher said that her participation in the event has also brought support from others who suffer from polycystic ovary syndrome, and has also brought increased awareness of the syndrome. She hopes it will make women less wound up about going out without make up, or bring inspiration to someone with a birthmark mark on face. And so far, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
"To actually go out there, and get out there, you see people still have manners. People may look, but mostly it's been very positive," she said. "I think only one negative comment on the whole of the Internet."
Fletcher plans to shave her new facial hair off at the end of the month. But will she immediately go back to her every-other-day saving regimen, which she does along with her husband?
"I was thinking about restarting in December," she joked."And I was going to grow it like the Jack Sparrow beard from 'Pirates of the Caribbean.'"
- polycystic ovary syndrome